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Thursday, September 13, 2012


(Oil on canvas by Heather Gourlay-Conyngham)

A solo exhibition of recent large scale oils on canvas by Heather Gourlay-Conyngham titled Unfoldings is currently running in the KZNSA’s Main Gallery.

Dr Juliette Leeb-du Toit notes in her catalogue essay ... “As with many other woman artists with remunerated employment - in Gourlay-Conyngham’s case, teaching - in addition to parenting and homemaking, her commitments have resulted in a smaller body of work than if she had been a full-time artist, which she has recently become. Her work reflects on several rites of passage as she repositions her role as wife and mother, and begins again to centre her creativity and persona, addressing issues of femininity, self-embodiment, intimacy, difference, ageing and becoming…

“…The female body, one of the main themes in Gourlay-Conyngham’s work, has for millennia been the domain of male artist-interpreters. Aspirant woman artists at academies in Europe were first allowed to depict the nude female form only in the late 19th century, winning this right in tandem with attempts to acquire civil and political rights. Contested for over a century, women’s right to represent themselves remains central to the feminist agenda and has in recent years assumed a strong political aspect … Many of Gourlay-Conyngham’s works focus on the female subject, challenging stereotypical perceptions associated with the eroticized male gaze.

Excerpt from exhibition catalogue foreword by photographer David Goldblatt: “Let me say naively, foolishly, recklessly, Paul Delaroche was not so much wrong as over-emphatic when, after seeing a daguerreotype for the first time in 1839, he is said to have declared, ‘From today painting is dead’. He was wrong, but given the richness and expressive possibilities of photography, I do wonder occasionally, why some painters still paint. Having regard to this view, you might well ask why I am writing a foreword to a painter’s catalogue.

“Quite simply because I am intrigued and entranced by Heather Gourlay-Conyngham’s particular ways with reality. Her paintings are increasingly rooted in a very high degree of faithful reciprocity with external reality and yet in some for me indefinable way they are painterly, not photographic. Knowing very little about painting I will risk my ignorant neck by saying that this way of working has nothing to do with setting up a style or with following or not following a trend. This is not about hyperrealism or any other painter’s fad, it is about finding and exploring ways of expressing her own relationship with reality, the reality that she lives.”

The artist will conduct a walkabout through her exhibition on September 15 at 11h00. All are welcome.

Unfoldings runs until September 30 at the KZNSA Gallery at 166 Bulwer Road, Glenwood, in Durban. More information on 031 277 1703, fax 031 201 8051 or cell 082 220 0368 or visit